So, you’ve finally booked that once-in-a-lifetime cruise! Congratulations! You are about to embark on an adventure that you will remember forever. However, you want those memories to be positive ones. After all, who wants to remember the hours they spent arguing at a local consulate to get a replacement for your lost passport or hunting for a pharmacy that can refill a needed prescription? Fortunately, you can avoid these situations by planning ahead and following these 10 important steps to prepare for your cruise.
Apply for your passport early
If your cruise will be taking you to a foreign country, you will need a passport. If you have never had a passport before, it can take up to three weeks to process your application for a passport. Even expedited passports will take up to two weeks. If this is your first time applying for a passport, or if your passport was issued more than 15 years ago or before you were age 16, you’ll have to apply in person at a Regional Acceptance Office or local Passport Agency. If you are not sure if you need a passport you can check online. Also, it is important to remember that even if you are traveling through a foreign country, even if your final destination is a U.S. state or territory, you may still need a passport.
Make a copy of the front page of your passport when you get it
If your passport is lost or stolen while you’re on your cruise, it will be much easier to get it replaced if you can provide the details on the front page of your passport to the local American consulate. Make several copies of that, and while you’re at it, copy the front and back of any credit cards that you plan to take with you as well as of your license and other important identification. Leave one copy at home with someone you trust, carry one set of copies in your travel/carry-on bag and, if possible, have a third set stored in the safe of the cruise ship.
Pre-book your shore excursions
You most likely will get a booklet from your cruise company after you book your cruise. Look through it and follow instructions to book space on any shore trips you want to take. By booking ahead, you can avoid long waiting in lines to get tickets for shore trips and other fun events. You can also pre-book spa treatments and appointments.
Check your airline tickets.
If you are buying airline tickets separately from your cruise package, double-check your airline reservations to make sure everything is correct, including the name on your ticket. If it does not match your ID, you may not be allowed to board the plane. It’s far better to correct things in advance than to be stuck at the airport on the day of your cruise.
Arrange for house-sitting, pet boarding and/or child care
Make arrangements to board your pets and find a sitter for your house and children at least a month in advance of your cruise.
Check your health insurance and buy travel insurance
What happens if you get sick or are injured overseas? Will your health insurance company cover you? While your regular health insurance may cover some overseas charges, you definitely should pay for a travel insurance policy. A good travel insurance policy will cover expenses that you probably won’t consider, such as the cost of getting home with medical care if you should fall ill while overseas.
Get backup prescription eyeglasses and medication
Imagine being on a scenic sightseeing cruise – and being unable to see the sights because your eyeglasses are broken. It can be difficult if not impossible to replace your prescription eyeglasses on board the ship or in a foreign port of call. Be prepared for any eventuality by getting a backup pair of eyeglasses just in case. If you take prescription medication, make sure that you have enough for your trip. If necessary, ask your doctor to write an additional prescription that you can fill before you sail.
Be sure that your toiletries will pass security checks
All the little necessities that make your day, such as shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and cosmetics, must be packaged properly to pass through security checks. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration uses the 3-1-1 system: 3 ounce bottles of liquids or gels packed in a 1 quart plastic zip-lock bag, 1 bag per passenger in carry-on luggage.
Get copies of significant medical records if you have a medical condition
If you have a medical condition that may cause complications or flare up during your trip, get copies of any important records or tests. If you become ill on board ship, the ship doctor will be able to treat you more quickly and effectively if you have those records with you.
Check the credit availability on credit cards you plan to take along
Most cruise lines run a credit authorization hold when you check in to cover your on board expenses. This can hit your credit line for hundreds of dollars even if you actually charge far less on your card. To avoid being left with little or no usable credit on your credit cards, make sure you have at least one credit card with several hundred dollars in credit remaining.